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Bioswales in Portland

September 2, 2006

If you’re like me, you don’t know what the heck a bioswale is. I couldn’t even spell it 90 seconds ago. My friend Jordan, who is going into the 8th grade at the Metropolitan Learning Center, has been working on a project to build a bioswale at his school. He told me all about the project and his efforts, which were pretty impressive, which will continue when he starts up school again next Wednesday.

According to Wikipedia, “Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides (less than six percent) and filled with vegetation, compost and/or riprap. The water’s Drainflow path, along with the wide and shallow ditch, are designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale, which aids the trapping of pollutants and silt. Depending upon the geometry of land available, a bioswale may have a meandering or almost straight channel alignment. Biological factors also contribute to the breakdown of certain pollutants.” Now do you know what a bioswale is? I’ve seen a few but didn’t really know what they were about.

In Portland they’re important because essentially bioswales capture rainwater runoff rather than fill sewers, which pour out into the Willamette River allong with all the pollution it picks up along the way. There’s one downtown near PSU on 12th Avenue, which won a prestigious national award last year.

The bioswale project at Metropolitan Learning Center is expensive to implement, and Jordan has had a hand in developing the budget and getting donations. He’s even written grants for the project. I’ll be sure to follow up on his project through the fall as it keeps moving.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. guffie permalink
    September 2, 2006 11:49 pm

    That’s great! Interesting project, it sounds simple and effective.

  2. Codjr permalink
    September 4, 2006 8:44 pm

    Ah, I see that you went and researched it…
    I can’t really spell it either…

  3. September 7, 2006 3:18 pm

    Apparently, Jordan worked up the budget for this project. I believe he even managed to cut some kind of deal on the equipment by astutely playing the MLC card. An environmentalist AND a sharpie. The future looks bright…

  4. September 11, 2006 1:45 pm

    hah, Generation Y indeed…i could have given a rat’s ass about biowhales when i was his age…

    you can hit me up for a donation, if it gets to that point (from Generation-Cynicism-X).

  5. Dallas permalink
    November 8, 2007 8:33 pm

    Well, after two years the bio swale is finally a reality. We finished planting today and all that’s left is spreading the bark mulch. Now when it rains, the water that falls on 5,000 square feet of black top will be allowed to filter though plants and soak back in to the ground (instead of the Willamette).

    Next project is a green roof. MLC is the only school in the Portland district that is structurally capable of supporting a green roof. This is a major project and we would accept any support (monetary or physical) we can get. If you are still interested iggi contact the Frank Scotto principal at MLC. You can find contact info on the MLC website.

    I am a father of a 6th grader that also has worked on the project and I have been very active in it this fall. In fact my son helped walk the permits though city hall.

  6. Charlotte permalink
    September 7, 2008 7:12 pm

    I am a student at MLC and the bioswale is finished and beautiful 🙂

    I walk by it every day and feel so proud that we finally got it done.
    Bravo MLC-ers!!

  7. May 23, 2011 6:04 pm

    Love them – seems like I am seeing quite a few in part of SE Portland recently – hurray!


  1. Bioswales in Portland « stumptown girl « Urban Paradigm

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